this is actually happening…
written by T Kirk Nov 2020
An exciting, warm and strangely scented air enveloped us as soon as the doors to the aircraft opened. It was already 22:00 and very dark, but still the humidity was overpowering. We made our way through the usual customs and temperature scanning checks, assembled the mountain of luggage we had brought with us, and then descended the treacherous ramps leading from the luggage hall to the arrivals area; it is no exaggeration that I have negotiated black ski slopes less precarious than this walkway. Certainly, it provided the first skip of a heartbeat as 16 excited boys hurtled at great speed with overloaded trollies towards a melee of people awaiting the arrivals. How no one was injured I will never know!
Thankfully Martial and his team of workers were there to steer us through the market-type hustle and bustle of the arrivals lounge and we climbed upon the coach for the hour long journey to Kokrobite. Jane was waiting on the bus and plied us full of local delicacies and more importantly water! I remember Jane enthusiastically explaining what was no doubt very important and useful information, but it was all a bit of a blur and I cannot say I processed much of what was said – I was worse than the boys! Young and old eyes stared hungrily out of the window keen to take in as much as possible from this new and mysterious land about which we had heard so much.
Evident was that driving in Ghana is akin to white water rafting, just without the water. Whilst trying to avoid gaping holes in the road, cars were continuously hooting their horns, diving into gaps not even Lewis Hamilton would have seen and when miraculously everyone obeyed the traffic lights and things came to a standstill, we were descended upon by countless locals selling anything from food and drink to sports equipment and car parts! This is when Jane came into her element. As she dismissed the hawkers, the boys were in no doubt that Queen Jane was now the boss!
By the time we arrived in Kokrobite, I think we were all starting to feel the effects of the day’s efforts. I hoped we could unload and get to bed as soon as possible so we could wake fresh for the morning. As I was soon to quickly learn, time has another interpretation in Ghana so my naïve optimism of a quick shower and bed soon evaporated. After some time we acquired half a dozen taxis for the 200m journey from the main road to the accommodation. The side road was both too small and had craters so big one could only imagine a battle of enormous significance had taken place here, it would have been impossible for the coach to venture any further. The taxis were not the black cabs of London you may be imagining. I think we were too tired to care, but it was noticeable that in some there were holes in the floor reminiscent of how Fred Flintstone would propel his car forward with his feet, spider web cracks artistically spread across the windows, and one taxi even had a door missing! Luggage was crammed into every crevice of the vehicles as well as on top and we suddenly found ourselves shaken and stirred at the entrance of Big Millies where there was evidently a big event taking place. Unfortunately, the loud drumming and impressive dancing were not for our benefit and we had to cajole quite forcefully some of the boys away from the party goers and towards what would be our residence for the week.
The house in which we would sleep had two floors and one bathroom. Bunk beds were stacked in every corner and mattresses lay in every other space, interspersed with giant fans trying to disperse the warm air around the room. It was quite tricky finding space for all the luggage but somehow we managed. More of a worry was the bathroom arrangement. There was a solitary toilet and we were told that flushing anything that does not come out of your body was forbidden. I cannot even begin to describe the assault on all senses upon entering the room after just 30 minutes of arrival! Worst still, the shower was attached to the wall next to the basin and close to the toilet meaning anyone using it would drench the entire room and everything in it. We decided it might be best to do it the African way and pour water over our heads outside from water collected from the well – the bucket shower became a rare treat.
And so the first night in Africa ended with a light refreshment at the bar, the boys bewildered by the new sounds of the live African drumming group, the staff trying to remain as still as possible to keep the heightened levels of perspiration at bay.